The calendar below, created by Dr. Peter Yuichi Clark, is an excellent way to keep on top of religious high holy days and festivals as they go by. It is especially useful for those in interfaith vocations who need this information on a day-to-day basis.
TIO is cooperating with another “working” religious calendar project being led by Read the Spirit. It extends what we usually mean by religious calendar to include important civic holidays. It identifies major religious holidays more than a year in advance. Most important, it features stories about what these many religious festival events are all about – what they mean, the important stories, the food associated, and how particular events are celebrated. Your own stories of religious holidays, whatever your tradition, are welcomed at the site. Check it out!
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Religious Holy Days in November & December 2013
For Native Americans, October marks the season of the Cherokee Green Corn Ceremony and the season of Xlaaw, the season to put up food for the coming winter. November marks Gwilatkw, the blanket season of the first snow, in which the Earth covers herself for her winter sleep.
For Native Americans of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico, December marks the time of the Shalako Kochina Ceremony. For other aboriginal tribes, this is the season when the river freezes and the land sleeps, known as Luut’aa.
Tuesday, November 12
Birth of the Bahá’u’lláh - Bahá’í
Anniversary of the birth of the Bahá’u’lláh (“Glory of God”), the founder of the Bahá’í faith, in Tehran, Persia [modern-day Iran], in 1817 C.E. Devout followers suspend work on this day; some begin their observance of the day on the previous day’s sundown.
Wednesday, November 13
‘Āshūrā’ – Islam
Sunni Muslims celebrate this day as the anniversary of Noah’s departure from the Ark on Mount Ararat and the freedom of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Shi’i Muslims mark this date as the anniversary of the martyrdom of Husayn, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, in 680 C.E.
Friday, November 15
The Advent (or Nativity) Fast – Christianity (Eastern churches)
The beginning of a forty-day vegetarian fast in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas) commences at sundown.
Sunday, November 17
Gurū Nanak’s Birthday – Sikhism
Sikhs commonly celebrate the birthday of their founder, Gurū Nanak Dev Ji, on the full moon day of Kartik, even though the guru’s biographers record his birth on April 15, 1469 C.E. A poet and mystic, Guru Nanak wrote 974 hymns that are included in the Sikh scriptures, known as the Gurū Granth Sahib.
Lokasha Jayanti – Jainism
Celebrating the births of revered and scholarly persons, such as the 15th century reformer Lonka Saha, whose opposition to temple worship and the use of images led to the founding of the Sthanakavasi sect.
Thursday, November 21
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Christianity (Catholic churches)
Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple – Christianity (Eastern churches)
This day commemorates the entrance of the three-year-old Virgin Mary into the temple at Jerusalem to receive an education and begin her life of absolute dedication to God. According to some apocryphal writings, Mary also entered the Temple’s Holy of Holies on this occasion, thus becoming the first and only woman ever to enter that sacred space.
Saturday, November 23
Qawl – Bahá’í
The beginning of the fourteenth month of the Bahá’í year, meaning “speech.”
Sunday, November 24
Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Gurū Tegh Bahadur Ji – Sikhism
This day commemorates the martyrdom of the ninth of the Ten Sikh Gurūs (1621-1675 C.E.). He is remembered for defending the Sikh faith, as well as the rights of Hindus and the cause of religious liberty.
Christ the King Sunday – Christianity (Western churches)
This feast day commemorates Jesus’ teaching that he will return at the end of time to judge humanity. In the Western Christian liturgical year, this is the last Sunday; the following Sunday (i.e., the first Sunday of Advent) marks the beginning of a new year.
Tuesday, November 26
Day of the Covenant – Bahá’í
A celebration of the appointment of ’Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Bahá’u’lláh, as the Center of the Covenant in New York City in 1912 C.E. Devout followers begin their remembrance the preceding evening and do not suspend work on this day.
Wednesday, November 27
Chanukah [Hanukkah] begins (through December 5) – Judaism
The Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the Maccabean victory over Syrian-Greek oppressors and the recapture and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 B.C.E. Special readings and praise songs focus on liberty and freedom. The eight-candle Menorah is lit at sundown, and gifts are given.
Thursday, November 28
This national holiday was first officially observed after a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, in 1863 C.E. Establishing the fourth Thursday of November for the observance, Lincoln wrote that “[The blessings enjoyed in this country] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
Ascension of ’Abdu’l-Bahá – Bahá’í
The commemoration of the death of the Center of the Covenant in Haifa, Palestine, in 1921 C.E. Devout followers begin their remembrance the preceding evening and are allowed to work on this day.
Sunday, December 1
First Sunday of Advent (hope) – Christianity (Western churches)
The first of four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day (the name Advent derives from the Latin word for “coming,” since Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth comes as God’s anointed). Each Sunday in Advent is associated with a particular virtue: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
Thursday, December 5
Chanukah [Hanukkah] ends – Judaism
Sunday, December 8
Second Sunday of Advent (peace) – Christianity (Western churches)
Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) – Buddhism
Celebration of the time when Prince Gautama (also later known as Shakyamuni Buddha) took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Catholic Christianity
A Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin for her entire life.
Thursday, December 12
Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Catholic Christianity
Commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary near Mexico City in 1531 C.E.
Masá’il – Bahá’í
The beginning of the fifteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “questions.”
Friday, December 13
Maunajiyaras – Jainism
A day of fasting, silence, and meditation on the five holy beings: monks, teachers, religious leaders, Arihants or Jinas (enlightened masters), and Siddhas (liberated souls). This day is also marked as the birth anniversary of many Tirthankaras or Pathfinders.
Sunday, December 15
Third Sunday of Advent (joy) – Christianity (Western churches)
Monday, December 16
Posadas Navideñas begins (through December 25) – Christianity (Western churches)
A Latino/Latina Christian feast of the Lodgings, commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph toward Bethlehem in preparation for the birth of Jesus.
Tuesday, December 17
Sanghamitta Day – Buddhism
Celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of King Asoka’s daughter Sanghamitta, who founded an order of nuns in Sri Lanka and carried with her a branch of the original tree under which the historical Buddha found enlightenment (it still survives in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura). This festival occurs on the full moon day in December.
Thursday, December 19
Birthday of Amitābha Buddha – Buddhism
Marking the birth of the bodhisattva Dharmakāra who resolved to attain enlightenment as a buddha and vowed to create a Pure Land. He became the buddha Amitābha (“infinite light”), and any sentient being who desires to be born into that land is guaranteed rebirth there through his vow, and from there she/he/it will unfailingly reach Nirvana. This belief forms the foundation of Pure Land Buddhism, which is practiced by many Buddhists in Japan, China, and other East Asian countries.
Saturday, December 21 winter solstice
Winter Feast – Native American spirituality
A time when Native Americans of the Woodland tribes share food with the spirits of winter.
Tohji-Taisai [Grand Ceremony of the Winter Solstice] – Shintō
This day marks the end of the sun’s decline (the yin period) and the beginning of its growth (the yang period). In Japanese spirituality, the sun is expressive of Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and guiding spirit of the Japanese people.
Yaldā – Zoroastrianism
The “night of birth” which marks the longest night of the year, after which days begin getting longer—thus symbolizing the victory of light and goodness over dark and evil. This festival is celebrated with storytelling, poetic readings, family reunions, and feasting.
Yule – Wicca
A celebration symbolizing the rebirth of the sun by the Goddess. A present-day Wicca event that ritually marks the shedding of the dross of the past year and contemplating one’s future spiritual development.
Sunday, December 22
Fourth Sunday of Advent (love) – Christianity (Western churches)
Monday, December 23
Birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Commemorating the birth of Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1805 C.E. in Vermont. He translated what became known as the Book of Mormon and became the first president of the LDS Church when it was founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York.
Tuesday, December 24
Christmas Eve – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. It is observed with worship, carols, candle lighting, manger scenes and festive meals.
Wednesday, December 25
Christmas Day/Feast of the Nativity – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, observed by prayers, exchanging of gifts, and family parties.
Thursday, December 26
St. Stephen’s Day – Christianity
Remembrance of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Kwanzaa begins (through January 1) – African American heritage
A seven-day festival that celebrates values highly regarded by people of African American ancestry. The values include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Each of these principles, collectively known as the Nguzo Saba, is represented by a red or green candle, each of which is lit on successive days using a central black candle.
Zaratosht Diso [Anniversary of the death of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster)] – Zoroastrianism
Estimates of when he lived vary from the sixth to the second millenium B.C.E., but this date memorializes the death of the prophet Zoroaster, whose hymns (gathas) are preserved in the Zoroastrian scriptures.
Saturday, December 28
Holy Innocents’ Day – Christianity
A day of solemn memory for the male children of Bethlehem killed by King Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus.
Tuesday, December 31 New Year’s Eve
Ghambar Maidyarem (through January 4) – Zoroastrianism
A celebration for the creation of animals, and a time for the equitable sharing of food with others.
Sharaf – Bahá’í
The beginning of the sixteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “honor.”
If you want more information about any of these holy days, please contact Spiritual Care Services at 415-353-1941 (Rev. Dr. Michele Shields) or 415-353-2319 (Rev. Dr. Peter Yuichi Clark).
Our thanks to the Chicago Center for Cultural Connections, the Multifaith Action Society of British Columbia (Canada), and www.interfaithcalendar.org